Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Where do authors get their ideas?

I'm sure I've spoken to this subject before, but it's the question I'm asked most frequently. When I speak to a group, they almost always want to know where I get my book ideas. The easiest answer? Everywhere.

I've been writing stories all my life, from the time I could first put pencil to paper, but it took until I was "grown up" to take the time to formulate those stories into something digestible. I wrote mostly for diversion. Entertainment. And then one day I had a wisdom tooth pulled. While I was curled up in a chair nursing my wounds, I watched Indiana Jones, which was followed by a PBS special on Pompeii and the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. That was the moment I knew I had a "real" story idea. What if Mt. Vesuvius buried the Holy Grail at Pompeii? St. Paul visited the region in a reasonable time frame to have carried it, and the Bible stories I'd learned growing up provided portability. Such was the beginning of The Treasure of St. Paul, later re-released as Touched by the Sun.

From there, I was rarely short of ideas. I've always had a fertile imagination, and once I learned to focus my writing into a cohesive theme and plot, it became a matter of refining my art. I've been inspired by pictures, by buildings, by real life events, by venues, by random conversations on a train. The project I'm working on now was an idea that came to me about a girl walking through a graveyard, very much at home there. I've written a story about a walk through a French market in Aix-en-Provence. About a Night Gallery episode showing someone walking inside a painting (my version isn't quite as spooky, but its just as supernatural). About a gorgeous house set back off the road and my experience with bed and breakfasts. And some of my stories have been inspired by the characters themselves.

When several readers commented how much they disliked a secondary character in LIVING CANVAS, I was determined to redeem her. Admittedly, she was fashioned after a bad example of a friend, but everyone has a reason for who they are, including that character. Those readers who didn't like her when she was introduced formed a different opinion after reading RETURN TO HOFFMAN GROVE, and I have to admit I loved the challenge of fixing a broken character. Likewise with cheating paramedic Matt, who appears in both those books. I figured he deserved a chance, too, and so I wrote COOKIE THERAPY. Apparently I did a good job, because one of my readers asked me to redeem Mike (from both those books), but I also had a reader who came into the series late, who didn't know Mike's history, tell me they didn't understand why people were sympathetic to an abuser. To that person, I would direct you to read RETURN TO HOFFMAN GROVE, and to the others, I'm afraid I don't have confidence Mike can overcome the darkness he's fallen into.


  1. There's nothing wrong with unlikable characters IF you show the readers why they're the way they are. In their minds, every character is the hero/heroine of the story. Not to say your readers have to like all your characters. That would be boring.